Annual greenhouse gas emissions report 2022-23
In October 2019, East Sussex County Council declared a Climate Emergency. In 2020, it adopted a Climate Emergency Plan, which was updated in 2023.
The approach taken in the Plan is that, to make its fair contribution to reducing county-wide emissions, the County Council will aim to stay within a science-based budget. This budget is based on a recognised methodology developed by the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for calculating carbon budgets by local authority area.
The Tyndall model shows that to stay within a budget based on a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels (as targeted in the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change) emissions from the county of East Sussex need to be cut in half every 5 years. Therefore, the Council has committed to also cutting its corporate emissions in half every 5 years.
This report gives an annual summary of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) arising from Council operations, measured as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions for the financial year 2022-23. These are compared with emissions from the baseline year of 2019-20. The report follows guidance from the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on how we should measure and report on our emissions.
The report covers:
- Scope 1 emissions: from fossil fuels used for heating schools and corporate buildings, and for the Council’s vehicles.
- Scope 2 emissions: from electricity used in building and for street lighting.
- Scope 3 emissions: arise from all other activities of the Council and include business travel, water usage, waste, procurement and staff commuting. This is by far the largest part of our total emissions, as is typical for a local authority, as most of the Council’s revenue and capital budgets are used to procure goods, services and works from third parties. Our Scope 3 emissions mostly comprise the Scope 1 and 2 emissions of other organisations (e.g. the energy that contractors and suppliers use to deliver services on behalf of the County Council).
The County Council has direct control over Scope 1 & 2 emissions, arising from our own operations, and can influence (but not directly control) Scope 3 emissions.
2.0 CO2e Emissions
2.1 Scope 1 & 2 Emissions
Figure 1 summarises the Council’s estimated emissions in 2022-23. We have calculated Scope 1 & 2 emissions based on robust consumption data. These emissions arise from the operation of our buildings and vehicle fleet, so are under our direct control.
2.2 Scope 3 Emissions
Prior to 2020/21, only Scope 3 emissions from Business Travel and Electricity Transmission & Distribution were reported. From 2020/21, additional Scope 3 emissions have been included, notably supply chain and staff commuting emission data.
Scope 3 emissions have been calculated using a mixture of robust measured data where this is available (e.g. staff mileage claims, tonnes of waste) and estimates where robust data does not exist or would be too resource intensive to gather (e.g. from the thousands of companies in our procurement supply chain). Estimated emissions are created by applying industry specific emission factors to ESCC’s supply chain spend. This means that the Scope 3 emission figure provides an idea of scale, rather than an accurate measure of carbon emissions.
Table 3 gives details of how individual emissions have been calculated. In common with other local authorities, our intention is to improve data quality in the coming years. This involves moving as much Scope 3 monitoring as possible from estimated to reported emissions, for example by requiring major suppliers to report on their emissions. Our reported Scope 3 emissions have increased over recent years. This is mostly because of improved understanding and monitoring, rather than an actual rise in emissions. As the data is subject to continual improvement, Scope 3 emissions should not be compared directly between reporting years.
Note that our carbon budget and target currently cover our Scope 1 & 2 emissions, but not our Scope 3 emissions, because of the uncertainty with scope 3 procurement data. Therefore, reporting on performance against the carbon reduction target currently covers scopes 1 and 2 but not 3. This is a similar approach to that adopted by most local authorities. We are working with key parts of our supply chain to improve the quality of data captured on carbon emissions and will include these within our target and reporting once the data are more robust.
2.3 Performance Against Target
Figure 2 shows annual progress against the target for Scope 1 & 2 emissions during the 5-year carbon budget covering 2020-25, measured against the baseline year of 2019-20. The units are tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).
The main points to note are that:
- In 2020-21, the annual reduction target was marginally exceeded, largely due to a combination of Covid lockdowns, which saw a significant reduction in energy use for heating buildings and business travel, the continued decarbonisation of the national electricity grid, carbon reduction measures and changes to the estate.
- In 2021-22, the annual reduction target was missed, mainly because of a rebound in building usage and business travel post Covid and a colder winter than average.
- In 2022-23, emissions were further reduced by 15% (1,500 tCO2). This was because of the continued decarbonisation of the national electricity grid, a mild winter, carbon reduction measures and changes to the estate. Covid guidance on keeping windows open to maintain ventilation will have contributed to the annual reduction target being missed by 4% (318 tCO2).
- Overall, the cumulative reduction in the Council’s emissions between 2019-20 and 2022-23 has been 32%, against a target of 34%.
- Buildings accounted for 82% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with schools making up the largest share (Figure 3). Corporate buildings include all non-school buildings, such as office buildings, libraries and residential homes. School buildings exclude those that have converted to academies.
- Heating made up 60% of building emissions, the same proportion as in 2021-22.
- Street lighting electricity consumption was down 8% compared with 2021-22, reflecting the Council’s low energy LED lighting upgrade projects.
- ESCC’s fleet CO2 emissions were up 9% compared with 2021-22, due to increased mileage following the pandemic, however, emissions are 25% lower than the 2019-20 baseline.
April to June 2021 saw an unusually cold spring, leading to higher energy consumption for heating during that period. April to June 2022 were warmer than the equivalent period in 2021, which resulted in gas consumption falling by 34% compared to the same period in 2021.
2.4 Historic Emissions Comparison
Since 2008/9, when we first reported our emissions, Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions have fallen by over 73% For more information on what these figures include, see table 3.
2.5 Impact of Grid Decarbonisation and Estate Changes
The decarbonisation of the national electricity grid, whereby renewable energy and gas have largely replaced coal, has made a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions. Figure 4 below shows the impact of grid decarbonisation on ESCC’s performance against the Scope 1 & 2 target. The actual and target bars show our performance against target, as in Figure 2. The orange bars show what our emissions would have been under a scenario where there was no further grid decarbonisation after 2019/20.
Without grid decarbonisation, the Council’s emissions would still have fallen, but at a slower rate. In 2022/23, 38% of our total carbon reduction against the 2019/20 baseline was because of grid decarbonisation.
Estate changes concern disposals or additions to the Council’s property estate, with the largest impacts currently seen through schools converting to academies and leaving the Council estate. In 2022-23, estate changes led to a reduction of 225tCO2, equating to 15% of the total year-on-year reduction of 1500tCO2. This 225tCO2 equates to 2% of 2019-20 base year emissions (12,461tCO2).
Table 1 below shows the impact of estate changes since 2019-20.
The Council has set an estate changes significance factor of a 5% annual reduction from the baseline year emissions total. The table shows that this has not been met. More information about estate changes and baselining is provided in section 3.9.
Figure 5 shows the relative contribution of grid decarbonisation and estate changes to the reduction in ESCC Scope 1 & 2 emissions observed between 2021/22 and 2022/23. These two factors contributed 42% of the total reduction. The remaining 58% was due to other factors, including (but not limited to) efficiency projects, weather conditions and staff behaviour change.
2.6 Intensity Measurement
In addition to reporting the absolute change in corporate carbon emissions, as shown above, it’s also good practice to ‘normalise’ emissions against an appropriate business metric, such as tonnes of CO2e per £ of revenue or per total square metres of floor space. This allows comparison of energy efficiency performance over time and with other similar types of organisations.
As recommended by the Carbon Trust, we divide our total emissions by our annual net revenue expenditure to give a carbon intensity measurement. Table 1 shows how our carbon intensity has changed since 2008/9, mainly because of the decarbonisation of the national electricity grid, carbon reduction measures and changes to the estate. Carbon intensity in 2022/23 was 19 tCO2e per £million based on a net revenue budget of £453m and emissions of 8,522 tCO2e.
2.7 Actions to Reduce Scope 1 & 2 CO2e Emissions
To support progress we have drawn up a Climate Emergency Plan, which is embedded in Objective 3 of our Corporate Property Asset Plan.
Progress to Date: Our ongoing energy efficiency programmes have reduced carbon emissions from our own operations. As of 2022-23 we have used our Salix Invest to Save Recycling Fund, our CET climate change and property maintenance budgets and, more recently, government PSDS funding to support 240 projects, worth £10.6 million and generating total annual savings of £920,000 per year. This funding has supported delivery of a wide range of projects including Solar PV, LED lighting and streetlighting, building fabric improvement, heating controls, boiler replacements, Low Carbon Heat and ICT .
During 2020-23, ESCC completed 8 Solar PV installations and 7 LED lighting upgrades. At sites where PV was installed, electricity consumption fell on average by 26% against the baseline year. For sites that had an LED lighting upgrade, the average fall was 5%. During the same period, the wider East Sussex portfolio saw electricity consumption fall by 4%. These projects, together with site specific changes and good housekeeping have helped save 75 tonnes from ESCC’s carbon emissions when compared to each site’s performance in the 2019-20 baseline year. For projects that completed during 2022-23, the savings will increase during 2023-24, as the site will see the benefit of these projects for a full year.
In 2022-23, ESCC installed heat pumps at two schools that had previously relied on oil boilers. These projects were not fully commissioned at the beginning of the 2022-23 heating season, so they have not yet realised the full cost and carbon savings for a whole year. So far, these sites have seen their emissions fall by 36tCO2 when compared to 2019-20 emissions, an average reduction across the two of 51%. The new installations are supported by good housekeeping plus monitoring and targeting.
On-site renewable solar energy generates around 1.6MW of clean energy each year; around 45% of this is generated by schools that have since converted to academy status.
From April 2021, electricity supplied to all corporate buildings and street lighting has been purchased on a green tariff. We have made this tariff available to schools that buy into our energy services.
Other factors that affected carbon emissions are estates closures, academisation of schools, and the gradual decarbonisation of grid electricity due to a decrease in coal powered generation and increasing proportions of gas and renewable generation.
Figure 6 below shows the progress made since 2008/9, when we started to report on our emissions. Scope 1&2 emissions have fallen by over 73%.
3.0 Other and Supporting Information
3.1 Organisation Information
For information on the services that ESCC provides and is responsible for delivering, and how we are organised and managed, please refer to our website.
3.2 Reporting Period
This report covers the period from 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023. Our base year is 2008/09, we chose this as it was used for the previous national indicator, NI185.
3.3 Geographical Boundary
All ESCC operations are carried out within the UK.
3.4 Organisational Boundary
We are defining our organisational boundary via the equity share approach. Although we have 100% equity in the majority of our estate, there are some buildings where we are not in full control of operations but are still responsible for paying a proportion of the energy bills, e.g. some leisure centres. Adjustments have been made to these figures during the calculation phase, to take account of the portion for which we are responsible.
3.5 Operational Boundary
Table 2 shows what we have included and excluded from our reporting in 2022/23. We have used the 2022 conversion factors, published by BEIS, which are available here.
3.7 Carbon Offsets
To date, we have not purchased carbon offsets to reduce our emissions, as it is widely recognised good practice to reduce emissions as much as possible before using offsets to compensate for residual emissions. Our current focus remains on emissions reduction through energy efficiency, decarbonisation of heat and on-site renewable generation. We are, however, looking into options for good quality offsetting to support carbon reduction.
From April 2021, electricity supplied to all corporate buildings and street lighting has been purchased on a green tariff. Currently, schools continue to purchase their electricity on a brown tariff, though the Council has offered and encouraged the take up of green electricity by schools.
As is best practice, we do not count our green tariff electricity as a carbon reduction measure because purchasing renewable generated electricity already in the marketplace makes very little material difference to total UK carbon emissions. On-site renewable and energy efficiency measures give direct carbon savings and offer a more robust mechanism for us to play our part in making genuine carbon reductions.
Instead, the Council decided to use a location-based approach to calculate our carbon emissions from purchased electricity. This approach uses the average carbon emission intensity of the national grid.
3.8 Renewable Generation
Some of our sites benefit from onsite renewable generation in the form of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and/or biomass boilers. Such measures provide zero or low carbon energy now, rather than relying on improvements over time in grid electricity carbon intensity. It also demonstrates leadership and will help support the growth of a local green supply chain. A breakdown of currently installed solar PV capacity, which remains within our portfolio and reporting boundary, is given in Table 3 below.
3.9 Base year recalculation
In order to provide meaningful comparisons of our carbon reduction performance, we compare our current year with the baseline year of 2008-9, when we first reported on our carbon emissions.
We periodically adjust the baseline year 2008-9 figures to take account of significant estate changes such as schools converting to academies and site closures. We remove the 2008-9 carbon emissions for sites that have left the estate and add emissions for significant property additions.
We do this to track genuine performance improvements rather than, for example, counting carbon emission reductions for schools that convert to academy. In these case, emissions from that business activity still arise, even if the schools are no longer within our building portfolio.
Re-baselining took place in 2014-15 and again in 2020-21. This means that the baseline year figures shown in this report are lower than those reported in 2008-9, as emissions were included for properties that are no longer in our portfolio. We will recalculate the baseline year emissions in any given year if the significance threshold is met. The significance threshold is set at an annual reduction of 5% of the baseline year’s total emissions, where the reduction has come only from estate changes. The baseline year emissions total will not change until the beginning of the next 5 year carbon budget unless the significance threshold is met.
Note that our re-baselining policy is currently under review to ensure that genuine efficiency savings do not trigger a re-baselining, for example if the Council shrinks its office estate to reflect the move to greater working from home.
We have automatic meters installed across most of our estate which allows us to report with a high level of accuracy on our electricity and gas related CO2 emissions. Street lighting consumption is un-metered and the local distribution network allocates our usage based on the information we submit to them on our street lighting stock. Currently, we only hold limited information on combusted biofuel (i.e. biomass) as the purchasing of this fuel is delegated to individual sites and so we lack sufficient data to report. Our data for solar PV generation uses a mixture of accurately recorded generation data and estimates based on kWp system size for some 3rd party owned systems installed on schools prior to 2021, where we cannot obtain generation data from the installers.
From 2020/21, we have expanded Scope 3 emissions to include emissions associated with procurement of goods, works and services. Table 2 itemises how these are calculated. As can be seen, Scope 3 emissions associated with our highways contract, corporate waste, water usage, staff business travel and transmission and distribution of electricity used by the County Council are based on measured data and standard BEIS conversion factors. The largest figure is from our supply chain and has been calculated by applying proxy values to the total expenditure, which indicates the scale rather than an exact figure. This is because it is not practical to gather exact data on every contract and purchase transaction. Consequently, the Council will focus on influencing and gathering robust data on emissions from contractors and suppliers where the likely scale of their emissions and the ability of the Council to influence these emissions are greatest, for example where the Council is a major client. As this data improves over time, so the carbon emission figures from procurement may vary significantly, as the figures become increasingly accurate.
We have made the best efforts to report on our emissions using the data we have available and, although we are confident in the quality of the data that we hold, there will always be scope for further improvement and adjustment in years to come.